A killer Sentenced

Case 001 Ends as Duch gets 19 years

By Vorn Makara & Hong Channpheaktra |Economics Today

For three years, 8 months and 20 days Cambodia lived in terror under the cruel Democratic Kampuchea (Khmer Rouge) Regime, a time when over a million Cambodians are estimated to have perished.

Cambodia is now at peace, but the extra Ordinary Chamber of Cambodia (ECCC) has dredged memories of the brutal regime with trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders. Kaing Guek Eav, more commonly known by his nom  de gurrer “Duch”, was the first to be put in the dock in case 001.

Born Nov 17, 1942, Duch became a mathematics teacher in 1965. He later resigned and joined in the Communist Party to serve as a chief officer of S24 (Today’s Prey Sar prison) between 1971 and 1975. He was then appointed as the director of S21 prison (now the Toul Sleng Genocide Museum) until the end of Khmer Rouge Regime. At S21, over 21,000 detainees were murdered, many after extended periods of torture.

In 1999, Duch was discovered living under the name Hang Pin and applying his own trade of teaching mathematics in Svay Chek District, Banteay Meanchey Province.

Eight years later, he was under the detention of Cambodian Army Judge (CAJ). In July, 2007, Duch was called for detention at the ECCC and was charged with war crimes, crimes against humanity and homicide. His trial lasted 77 days, spread across 9 months form February to November 2009.

The Center of Justice and Reconciliation (CJR) organized a public forum at Pannasastra University of Cambodia Auditorium attended by around 500 people July 23 for people to share feelings on the ECCC, and their sadness and difficulties during the regime, said Theary Seng, CJR board president.

Speakers included ECCC Public Affair UN Deputy Chief Lars Olsen, S21 official artist and ECCC civil party Van Nath, Prof. David Chandler, author of Voices from S-21: Terror and history in Pol Pot’s Secret Prison, British Ambassador to Cambodia Andrew Mace, Acting Chief of the ECCC Victims Support Section Rong Chhorng, Bou Meng, another S21 survivor, and Chey Theara, vice president of Association of Khmer Rouge Victims in Cambodia.

Kong Saroun of the Victims Association predicted Duch would be sentenced to at least 40 years in prison. “He can’t be allowed to release,” he said.

Ros Sithat, one of the participants, said the forum allows Cambodians to learn more about the Khmer Rouge trials. “Why did Khmer people kill Khmer people?” he aske. “This question still has not found a correct answer yet.”

In the morning of July 26, more than a thousand people were queuing to enter the ECCC court to listen to the Duch verdict. Million more were awaiting a live announcement on TV and radio.

“The verdict made people from nationwide discuss about the punishment of Duch after being silent for such a long time,” said Reach Sambath, chief of the Public Affair Section at the ECCC. “This also gives a chance for Khmer youths to be aware of the dark regime.”

By 10 am, the president of trial chamber, Nil Non, had begun to summarize Case 001. He said that, beside having accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Duch was also accused of crimes against the Geneva Convention.

Duch’s excuse that he merely followed orders was not accepted, the court finding that he acted voluntarily, and incited and ordered other to commit crimes.

The trial chamber sentenced Duch to 35 years imprisonment. However, 5 years were deducted for an illegal Cambodian military detention. Another 11 years were deducted because Duch has already been detained at the CAJ for 8 years and the ECCC for the last 3 years. In total, Duch will serve 19 years more in prison.

“The trial chamber…reduces the level of punishment based on Duch’s cooperation, own recognition of his act in Toul Sleng, his leaders’ pressure on him, and his apology,” said Nil Non.

Oum Sophany, a prolific Cambodian author, welcomed the verdict. “In my opinion, what i want is law, and i do not want revenge. What the court has done is acceptable because they know the how to judge criminals following the national and international laws.”

But Chum Mey, one of a handful of Toul Sleng survivor, said he couldn’t accept the verdict. “Duch killed thousands of people,” he said. “Since he wanted to eliminate Khmer race, will Cambodians feel happy if Duch is released after that period?”

Sok Leang, CJR Victims Outreach Manager and Interim Director, also thought the court should have handed down a heavier sentence. “The level of punishment should be longer than the time it will take for him to die,” he said.

A tearful Vong Savat, whose uncle was killed in Toul Sleng, said after the verdict that she wanted justice. “I want Duch to be in jail for whole life.”

In an unrelated case, on the same day the ECCC verdict was handed down, the Cambodian man US$10,000 and sentenced him to 20 years in prison for drug trafficking.

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